Pirates to host Tarheels

Published 11:50 am Monday, April 21, 2014




By Michael Prunka

For The Washington Daily News


North Carolina visits Clark-LeClair Stadium in Greenville Tuesday for the first game of a home-and-home series with East Carolina. Both sides are coming off of impressive weekends and looking to build momentum heading into the final month of the regular season.

UNC spent Easter weekend in Charlottesville, Va. taking on Atlantic Coast Conference rival, top-ranked Virginia. While the Tar Heels lost the series and fell below .500 in league play, they kept all three games close, even capturing a 4-2 win in the series finale.

The Pirates, persevering through poor weather conditions, opened their weekend series with Middle Tennessee on Thursday and wrapped it up with a doubleheader on Friday. Game 1 of the series was a pitching duel between the two sides. ECU walked away with the 1-0 win after starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman gave up just three hits, no runs and fanned 16 batters in eight innings of work.

Even though Hoffman will have had five days off by the time the Pirates head to Chapel Hill, it’s unlikely that head coach Billy Godwin will pull him out of his usual Friday spot to make a Tuesday start.

“I don’t want to say,” Godwin said, “but we may do something like (David) Lucroy (on Monday) and Reid Love (on Tuesday). Love is what I am thinking right now. I was actually pleased with (Brett) Mabry and (Tyler) Bolton’s outings. I don’t see anything, but it’s good we’ve developed five guys that we feel good about that we can go to.”

Mabry started the first game of the doubleheader and Bolton the second. Mabry earned his first loss of the season after surrendering three runs (all earned) on eight hits in six innings pitched. Bolton earned ECU the series win in the second game on Friday by giving up no runs on three hits in 5.2 innings.

Whoever takes the mound for the Pirates will have his work cut out. UNC has three batters hitting north of .300. Two of those men — Michael Russell and Wood Myers — have each notched over 50 hits this season, including 23 doubles and four home runs, resulting in 45 RBI as a pair.

ECU will bring its own group of hard-hitting players, too. Zach Houchins, Drew Reynolds and Charlie Yorgen are all hitting at least .300. Houchins and Reynolds, much like UNC’s impressive duo, have notched over 50 hits apiece. Yorgen has also provided plenty of consistency at the plate since becoming a regular starter.

UNC will also have to adjust to slugger Ian Townsend. The transfer right fielder hit two homeruns in a single inning over a month ago versus Tulane, but hasn’t always been that kind of power threat. Rather, he’s consistently stepped up and plated runners with timely situational hitting. Coming out of this past weekend series, Townsend leads ECU with 28 RBI.

After dominating North Carolina State 7-0 recently, a win over another big in-state rival will give ECU exactly the kind of momentum it needs as the end of the season rapidly approaches.